Starting Five: Williams shines at JBC, plenty of good point guards left
Five-star forward Emmitt Williams didn't make the McDonald's All-American game but made his presence known at the Jordan Brand Classic. Who is the top rookie in the NBA? All of the sudden, the 2018 market is flooded with point guards, plus more as we kick off the week.
ROUNDTABLE: Which players will be missed most next season?
1 TALKING JORDAN BRAND CLASSIC
LSU bound five-star power forward Emmitt Williams was one of the most notable omissions from the McDonald's All-American Game. Given his chance to play in the Jordan Brand Classic in front of a nationally televised audience, the No. 23 ranked player from Orland (Fla.) Oak Ridge was super productive going for 44 points while making a whopping 22-23 of his shots in his white team's 146-136 win over the black squad.
Of Williams 22 field goals, 20 of them had to have been dunks and many of them were uncontested. Still, it's not easy to put up those kind of numbers -- even in an all-star game -- without playing very hard. I try not to take too much away from games like the JBC, but I can appreciate the level of effort Williams played with. The game mattered to him and it bodes well for Will Wade and LSU.
Because I went to the McDonald's Game and am headed to the Nike Hoop Summit in Portland this week, I only watched the JBC from home instead of making my way to Brooklyn. But in addition to being impressed by Williams' energy level, I have a few quick observations.
It was another strong event for Nassir Little. I would have loved to have seen him on USA Basketball's team in Portland this week, but he's proven his point. The North Carolina-bound wing has solidified his top five status in the class of 2018 and has made a strong case for a move up.
After missing the McDonald's Game, Bol Bol looked good in the JBC. Coming off of an Achilles tendon injury, the 7-foot-2 five-star headed to Oregon was running the floor really well. He's among a top six that is very much in a state of flux as we head towards the final ranking of the 2018 class, and a big showing at the Hoop Summit this week could help him.
Also headed to Portland this week is shooting guard Tyler Herro. The Kentucky commit looked like one of the more polished players from a skill standpoint. He keeps getting labeled as a shooter, but he's more natural scorer than pure shooter. That's fine because his floor game should be talked about more. An All-Star game is an All-Star game, but Herro showed great feel and basketball instincts. Basically, he's more well-rounded than has been talked about.
I love the fit of four-star forward Cole Swider with Villanova. He is a shooter with size and good athleticism. He needs some more strength, but he is a perfect fit for Jay Wright and is one of those guys who can put up numbers without needing a lot of touches.
Finally, Maryland commit Jalen Smith has been really good in the postseason. He's been consistently competitive and it looks like all the extra work he's put in to get stronger and build his skill level have paid off. I always worry about how big men adjust to the physicality change going from high school to a high major, but I'm a lot less worried about Smith's ability to bang today than I was a few months ago. He's going to help out Mark Turgeon and the Terps early.
2. BEN SIMMONS IS THE TOP ROOKIE
A few years ago, I made the mistake of ranking Philadelphia 76'ers star rookie Ben Simmons No. 2 behind Skal Labissiere. I've learned a lot from that and because of that I won't make a mistake on Simmons again. As the NBA season ends, he's got to be the Rookie of the Year in a strong class of first-year players.
Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz made a strong run and the shooting guard has been awesome, but Simmons is a walking triple double and is unlike any other young talent in the NBA. At 6-foot-10, he converts at a high rate from the field and is as gifted a passer as there is in the game. Some are making a big deal out of him not hitting a three-point shot this year. I'd rather make a big deal about how talented he is.
The top scoring rookie, Mitchell has had a special season as well. It was just a year ago that many wondered if Mitchell was making a mistake in leaving Louisville after two years. I don't think anybody is questioning that decision now.
Rounding out my All-Rookie team for the 2018 season are Kyle Kuzma, Jayson Tatum and Josh Jackson with guys like Dennis Smith Jr. and Lauri Markkanen also making strong cases. Tatum has started all year long and shot the ball from the perimeter much better than expected in his rookie season. Kuzma is another who had his decision making questioned when he left Utah early and now he's the one laughing after an incredible first year with the Lakers. As for Jackson, Rivals.com's No. 1 player from the class of 2016 got off to a slow start but was outstanding late averaging almost 19 points and six rebounds a night after the All-Star break.
3. ILLINOIS TAKES POINT GUARD GAME INTO THEIR OWN HANDS
Brad Underwood and Illinois have been among those hoping to win out for top 50 point guard Courtney Ramey. Rather than wait on Ramey, Underwood and the Illini took matters into their own hands over the weekend landing a commitment from Andres Feliz, one of the top guards in the junior college ranks.
Committed to South Florida in the class of 2006, Feliz was just on the outside looking in of the 2016 Rivals150 before headed off to junior college. At Northwest Florida State, Feliz was good for 20 points and six assists per game as a sophomore.
A scorer by nature, Feliz is powerful and quick off the dribble. He's a threat from deep and he plays with a motor. He reminds me a bit of another guy that Northwest Florida pumped out a few years ago, Chris Jones who went on to put up some big numbers at Louisville.
With the addition of Feliz, the Illini class is now six strong and ranks No. 13 overall in 2018 led by current five-star Ayo Dosunmu. Next season, Dosunmu and Feliz will likely be expected to share a lot of time in the backcourt with returning four-star guard Trent Frazier. Illinois still has room for another and is looking at frontcourt players like four-star Blake Hinson and three-stars Maurice Calloo and Bryce Golden.
4. HARD TO UNDERSTATE THE IMPORTANCE OF DOUTRIVE
After a year filled with the kind of headlines that no coach or program wants, Sean Miller and Arizona got some much needed good news on Sunday when four-star combo guard Devonaire Doutrive committed to the Wildcats.
Miller has landed higher ranked players, but Doutrive is now arguably as important a player as he has ever landed. Currently a bit under valued at No. 125 overall in our rankings, Doutrive is a smooth and athletic scorer with blossoming game. He should be able to come in and play minutes right away.
More importantly, Miller and Arizona needed that first guy to take a leap and say yes to them after they've been losing recruits because of their mentions in the college basketball corruption investigation. Their link to the investigation has cost them many recruits, but the hope for them is that other players will see that Doutrive feels safe in going there and that they will follow suit.
5. IT MAY BE LATE, BUT PLENTY OF QUALITY POINT GUARDS LEFT IN 2018
It's getting late and only 10 percent of the 2018 Rivals150 remains on the board. That includes guys like five-stars Darius Bazley and Anfernee Simons who have already announced they will be pursuing professional opportunities rather than playing college basketball.
Yet somehow, there is still a pretty nice group of point guards available. Former Arizona and Louisville commits Brandon Williams and Courtney Ramey are top 50 prospects who remain on the board. Four-star Tyler Harris is still out there, the previously mentioned James Akinjo. In a few days, Rivals150 member Isaac Likekele should officially have his release and many feel he can play the point as well. There's also others who sit just outside of the current Rivals150 like Serrel Smith and Myreon Jones that can play point.
That there are that many guys who can legitimately play somewhere on the high major level left is good news to the teams left scrambling.
As for where they currently stand, Williams seems to be a pretty heavy target of Oregon. Ramey is technically down to 10 but Missouri, South Carolina, Texas and Oklahoma State appear to be among the most strong with him. Harris had been thought to be favoring Baylor over Memphis and Iowa State, but Penny Hardaway could be turning that in Memphis. Akinjo has Arizona, Tennessee, Georgetown and others involved. Likekele will attract Big 12 attention while Smith just finished a trip to Maryland and many have been inquiring about Jones.